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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 14 October 2020

Crisis in Caucasus

  • The ongoing fighting between Armenian rebels and the Azerbaijani Army in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a self-declared republic within Azerbaijan, risks becoming a wider regional conflict.
  • Both nations agreed to a Russia-mediated ceasefire last week
  • But the truce crumbled immediately amid a blame game.

  • The region, largely populated by ethnic Armenians, is located within the international boundaries of Azerbaijan.
  • Under the Soviet Union, it was an autonomous province that was part of the Azerbaijan republic.
  • In 1988, when the Soviet power was receding, the regional assembly in Nagorno-Karabakh voted to join Armenia, triggering ethnic clashes.
  • After the Soviet disintegration in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over this largely mountainous, forested enclave.
  • Azeris and Turks share ethnic and linguistic bonds.
  • For Turkey, which, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is trying to expand its geopolitical reach to the former Ottoman regions, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is an opportunity to enter the South Caucasus.
  • Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
  • Russia, already involved in military conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, may not like opening another front.
  • Both sides should understand the volatile situation and call off the hostilities.
  • Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Karabakh rebels should go back to the ceasefire and open up diplomatic channels.


Auction Stations | ToI

  • An auction is a common way to sell something.
  • Auctions have evolved into highly sophisticated tools to sell a range of things.
  • This year’s Nobel awardees for economics, Robert Wilson and Paul Milgrom, have been recognised for their pioneering work in both auction theory and design.

The success of an auction depends mainly on three things

  1. The rules which govern the process
  2. The bidders’ idea of the value of the auctioned item
  3. The information asymmetry among bidders about the item.
  • Wilson, beginning 1960s, and Milgrom in the 1980s, spelt out how these three aspects interact.
  • What’s unusual is that the winners collaborated to build real world applications arising out of their theoretical work.
  • The best known of their applications is the Simultaneous Multiple Round Auction (SMRA) method used in the US in 1990s for telecom auctions.
  • SMRA has been used elsewhere, including in India.
  • The success of an auction depends crucially on the aim of the auction.
  • For example, if a charity aims to raise the highest possible amount of money by auctioning memorabilia of a sports celebrity, there’s hardly anything that can go wrong with the design.
  • On the other hand, if a government that wants to auction telecom spectrum has more than one goal, challenges will be plentiful.
  • One of those challenges, in the Indian experience, is to protect potential revenue by preventing collusion among bidders.
  • In India, it’s been addressed by a floor price for bids.
  • This method spawns another set of problems such as failed auctions because the floor price is too high.
  • Another challenge is the winner’s curse, where the winning bid is based on an overestimate of value.
  • Auction design remains work in progress because contexts and aims keep changing.
  • Also, the very nature of what’s sold evolves with technological advancement.
  • Search engine advertisements were inconceivable 50 years ago when Wilson was building the theoretical foundation.
  • The award is a reminder of the work that has gone into the scaffolding supporting many moder n markets.

A concerted attack on RTI

  • This year marks 15 years of the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) law.
  • RTI has empowered millions to assert their citizenship and show truth to power.
  • It was a vibrant grassroots movement, led not just by the educated elite but the working poor across the country, that eventually resulted in the passage of the historic law in 2005.
  • The right to information has been upheld by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to free speech and expression.
  • Without access to relevant information, people’s ability to formulate opinions and express themselves meaningfully is curtailed.
  • Since its enactment, the RTI law has been used by people to seek information to actively participate in decision-making processes and hold governments accountable.
  • The RTI Act has also been put to effective use by public-spirited citizens to shine the light on corruption and arbitrary abuse of power by the state.
  • By giving every citizen of India the right to access government files and records, the law has potentially created 1.3 billion whistleblowers and auditors.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office has been queried about the expenditure of the PM CARES Fund.
  • Information Commissions at the Centre and in the States are the final adjudicators empowered to act against violations of the legislation.
  • In 2019, regressive amendments were made to the RTI Act which did away with statutory protection of fixed tenure and high status conferred on the commissioners.
  • RTI (Amendment) Act allows the Central government to determine the tenure and salaries of all Information Commissioners, signalling that directions to disclose inconvenient information could invite adverse consequences.
  • The functioning of commissions has been severely impeded by governments not appointing Information Commissioners in a timely manner.
  • Vacancies in Information Commissions lead to large backlogs of appeals/complaints and long delays in the disposal of cases, effectively frustrating the people’s right to know.
  • Since May 2014, not a single commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has been appointed without citizens having to approach courts.
  • Despite Supreme Court orders to fill all vacancies, six out of 11 posts of commissioners are currently vacant in the CIC, including that of the chief.
  • The CIC is headless for the fifth time in the last six years! State governments appear to have adopted a similar strategy.
  • Eight State Information Commissions are functioning without a chief.
  • Two commissions — Tripura and Jharkhand — are totally defunct with no commissioners.

Decolonising the museum | IndExp

  • In the 1830s, a group of Dutch naturalists went on an expedition to a river island on the south coast of Borneo.
  • They were given a warm welcome by the island’s Sultan, Panembahan Adam, who took his guests on a guided tour of the rainforests in his domain.
  • But there was something else that dazzled the scientists — the Sultan’s gemstones.
  • How could a Dutch protectorate be so rich?
  • The matter reached the Dutch government. In the 1850s, it abolished the Sultanate and confiscated Adam’s property.
  • In the booty was an uncut diamond, the Banjarmasin Diamond.
  • The 70-carat gemstone was shipped to the Netherlands and went on to become a part of the collection at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

  • The museum has now supported a proposal by the Dutch Council of Culture to return “thousands of pieces of art looted by colonists”.
  • Collections in several Western museums have uncomfortable histories.
  • Artefacts acquired through invasion, colonisation and unfair purchases were selected, organised and exhibited according to tags given by Europeans.
  • Stripped of their cultural contexts, they challenge the capacity of the colonised to be authors of their own histories decades after decolonisation.
  • The British Museum holds on to the Elgin Marbles by describing itself as the preserver of the sculptures, which, left to the 19th century Ottoman rulers, might have been crushed to make limestone.
  • The museum describes the sculptures — and other artefacts in its possession, including the Kohinoor — as “unique resources for the world”, which allow “visitors to explore the interconnected nature of human cultures”.
  • It is such claims to cosmopolitanism that the Dutch Council of Culture challenges. “Injustice was done to the local populations of former colonial territories when objects were taken against their will,” says a report it issued last week.
  • The question is: Can repatriation undo the elision of colonial violence in Western museums?


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